JOINT SITTING OF PARLIAMENT
DEBATE ON 16 DAYS OF ACTIVISM FOR NO VIOLENCE
AGAINST WOMEN AND CHILDREN
COUNT ME IN –
TOGETHER MOVING A NON-VIOLENT SOUTH AFRICA FORWARD
THE HON. MS LL VAN DER MERWE MP
WHIP: INKATHA FREEDOM PARTY
National Assembly Chamber: 12 November 2015
Last year, I participated in this debate, under the same theme.
Year after year, we repeat the same issues. We raise the same concerns. We highlight the same worrying facts. And year after year, between debates, we are confronted with countless, horror stories of abused women and children. Does anything change? Are we making any progress?
I have no doubt that we are sincere in engaging this debate. But a real threat exists of our nation becoming desensitised, to the plight, of the most vulnerable in our society. This debate, should therefore, be refocused. It must interrogate specifically how well, or how poorly, we have done in the past year. Did we succeed in the undertakings we made, during this debate last year? Have we seen real success in the war against violence?
Well, police reports suggest that we have. According to them, cases of gender-based violence are decreasing. But we cannot console ourselves with this information, alone. Reality demands our attention, and we must acknowledge that such data can be misleading.
Research, points to the fact that fewer and fewer women are willing to come forward to seek justice. Our culture of impunity, and silence, is fortified by a failing justice system.
Victims of rape, in particular, are struggling through a system that should offer immediate assistance. Instead, it offers a long, strenuous and painful journey.
Those who do come forward, are discouraged from doing so. And often face a second round of victimization at the hands of police officers, medical staff and even our Courts.
In addition, often rape victims are confronted with the stigma of having, somehow, brought abuse upon themselves.
Even a Member of Parliament from this House, during a recent debate, effectively called rape victims “cry-babies”. While, the Department of Women caused a stir, a few months ago, when they too, were seen to be insensitive to rape victims, with their comments on Twitter. Both incidences were unacceptable. Such uncaring attitudes must be confronted and challenged.
To move forward, we require a holistic funding model to fight gender based violence. We need to encourage the private sector to assist in combating this scourge. And we need better mechanisms to track the results, of interventions, directed at gender based violence.
When one considers our crime statistics, we need to acknowledge that our nation resembles, one at war, with itself.
Therefore, awareness campaigns like 16 days of activism, is simply not enough. We need to re-educate our society. Children need to be taught, to respect women, and their rights. They need to be taught to champion gender equality. This must become part of our education system. We must educate our youth, to reshape the value of women in society, and we will see a dramatic shift in gender roles. And real success in the fight against gender-based violence.
Then, perhaps, this debate, will finally, begin to move us forward.
In conclusion, Hon Chair, count the IFP in as we continue our struggle for a safer South Africa, for all.